Saturday, February 02, 2019

How Not to Crash and Burn (44)

Two of our final five entries in Solomon’s Thirty Sayings speak about the future. Their point? That those who act wisely have one, while evil men do not.

The Hebrew word translated “future” is 'achariyth. It means an end, a latter time, or a posterity. In brief, the idea is that Someone Transcendent is governing time and watching over the world. Nothing done or not done adds up to nothing. All is being tabulated and will have its consequences down the road.

It therefore makes sense to govern ourselves accordingly, no?

Thirty Sayings (Proverbs 24:13-22)

Twenty-Sixth Saying: Wisdom is as Necessary as Food in an Emergency
“My son, eat honey, for it is good,
and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
if you find it, there will be a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.”
Not everyone likes honey. Fair enough. We have a staggering number of sweet alternatives available today. But when Proverbs was written there was no Krispy Kreme, no Snickers bars, no gummy bears and no premium Australian liquorice. There are no references to sugar in the Bible. Zero. In Solomon’s day, if the average Israelite wanted something sweet, honey was pretty much the only game in town. People loved it. When God pitched Canaan to Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey”, he did it for a reason, and Israel understood what he was telling them. For the average man or woman on what we would today consider an incredibly bland diet, honey was a singular and highly pleasurable food experience.

Honey was also a ready source of calories for the traveler. Samson craved honey so much he scraped it right out of a rotting lion’s corpse. Would you do that for a Boston Cream donut? After a hard day on the battlefield, the first thing a hungry Jonathan reached for was a mouthful of honey. On a long journey in uncultivated territory, when you couldn’t carry meat and even bread would go bad in a few days, coming across a honeycomb was a far more efficient source of energy than having to stop, hunt, kill, clean and cook … assuming you were successful, which was by no means guaranteed. And if there were no wild game or even fruit to be found, honey might, at least temporarily, mean life itself.

Wisdom is to our lives what honey was to an Israelite three thousand years before Christ: eye-brightening, sustaining, precious and necessary. We ought to crave wisdom the way Samson craved honey.

Twenty-Seventh Saying: Plots Against Righteous People Will Not End Well
“Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous;
do no violence to his home;
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”
The Bible is full of stories of righteous men — and even relatively righteous men — who bounced back. Take everything they have from them and God gives it back to them times two. Cheat them out of their wages and they end up inheriting all your wealth. Throw them in jail, and they wind up ruling your country. Pitch them to the lions and … nothing happens.

Why would you target a guy like that? Ask Haman how it turned out for him. There is no possibility of the wicked demonstrating similar resilience when hard times come. They simply do not have the power of Heaven working on their behalf.

Twenty-Eighth Saying: Don’t Celebrate Your Enemy’s Errors
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the Lord see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.”
The commands of Christ to his followers concerning enemies — to love and pray for them — are often considered a radical departure from the “eye for an eye” stipulations of the Mosaic law, yet they are not without a basis in Old Testament teaching. Here we find early instruction to manage one’s enthusiasm over the misfortune of an enemy. This makes sense. God did not change his nature between one Testament and the next, and a God who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked is hardly likely to encourage the opposite impulse in men. After all, we are to be perfect, as he is. Thus we are told not only not to overtly celebrate an enemy’s downfall, but also not to quietly indulge a vengeful sentiment in our hearts.

There is, however, what might be a little humanizing twist in the incentive for holding back on impromptu touchdown celebrations. The concern is not that the Lord might turn and punish the person taking pleasure in the fall of the wicked, but that a public display of inappropriate glee may cause the Lord to cease punishing the guilty party. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?

When dealing with fallen people, I suppose it’s most efficient to appeal to the motive likeliest to produce your desired outcome.

Twenty-Ninth Saying: Don’t Copy the Ways of Wicked People
“Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”
This “no future” thing to which Solomon refers may be in this life … or it may be in eternity. Other scriptures remind us that lamp of the wicked is not always snuffed out at our convenience. God deals with the wicked as he sees fit. Nobody can tell him how to call the shots.

The prophet Habakkuk complained, “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”

Good point. Sometimes God remains silent, and the lamp of the wicked remains lit while the lamp of the righteous gutters out. Is that fair? Maybe not in the short term, but God has a widescreen perspective on human affairs. He is under no obligation to square things up in our time frame and at our say-so.

That said, Solomon confirms that justice will ultimately have its day. We need to believe that, be patient, and wait for it. There is no value in envying the wicked or copying their tactics. The harvest is coming, and every evil deed will be shown for exactly what it is.

Thirtieth Saying: Stay Away from People Who Have No Respect for Authority
“My son, fear the Lord and the king,
and do not join with those who do otherwise,
for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?”
A “purity spiral” is the unending quest to rid one’s political landscape of faulty leadership and flawed allies. Once you start spiraling, don’t expect to stop spiraling anytime soon.

There are plenty of New Testament instructions to Christians to obey the powers that be. Compliance with our civil authorities should be an obvious matter for followers of Christ. But Solomon is saying something more here, and that is this: insurrectionists carry in them the seeds of their own destruction. “Disaster will arise suddenly from them.” Their undoing comes from within.

God does not need to single out the rebel and bring him to heel, though he could. The rebel’s own nature makes it inevitable that he will crash and burn eventually.

Think of it like this: You are having an affair with a married man. Having kicked his wife and children to the curb, he tells you that you are his one and only, he will never leave you, and that he will love you forever. Do you believe him? Are you kidding? Of course not. The man who refuses to subject himself to one set of vows cannot and will not be bound to another.

Likewise, a man who cannot subject himself to an existing set of authorities will not be the sort of man to run the new Utopia once he has burned the old order to the ground. It’s not in him to do so. Once he begins to “purity spiral”, he will wage war on every attempt to lead him, modify him or limit his choices in any way.

Apart from the reign of Jesus Christ himself on millennial earth, every possible form of leadership is fatally flawed. The man who takes it upon himself to contend with rulers because they do not meet his exacting personal standards is doomed to unending misery and perpetual rebellion.

We are best to let him go to it without our assistance.

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